A dream come true –

PACE for PSWs online palliative care education is open for registrations!

By Kath Murray

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Personal Support Workers. Anyone who knows me, knows that my palliative care career has focused on addressing the education needs of PSWs. And so, it is no surprise to those who know me, that one of my dreams would be to offer online palliative care education specifically for PSWs. And this week, this dream is coming to fruition as PACE for PSWs, Palliative Care Education for PSWs, opens to receive registrations.

Personal Support Workers, also known in Canada as “unregulated care providers” provide direct care to people with such diverse and often complex needs, in a variety of physical settings, with a variety of family and friends who also require support. PSWs provide this care with less than a year of formal education. In some settings, PSWs care in isolation, without team members there to provide support, to assist with lifting, to discuss the challenges. In other settings, PSWs might work among colleagues, but with a noticeable lack of team. Given the incredible work, the sometimes-insurmountable challenges, and yet the ongoing deep commitment to care for people – I am humbled to associate with PSWs and my career focuses on developing education and resources to support PSWs in practice, to support the PSWs educators, and to support the larger health care team. I am excited to write that over 250 colleges and organizations use our resources for integrating palliative care in their core curriculum and workplace education.

There are still thousands and thousands of PSWs who have received only a few hours if any palliative care education. These PSWs may not understand the benefit of integrating a palliative approach in caring for people with any life-limiting illness, they may struggle with multiple losses and ongoing grief and not understand that in so many ways they are doing the work of a hospice – and during COVID, they may have especially struggled to bridge the divide caused by COVID restrictions, to help patients and family communicate, and to be with those who were sick and dying when the family was unable to sit with them.

My questions became, How can we reach PSWs who cannot access face to face education, how can we support workplace educators who cannot provide face to face education and/or who cannot free up staff to attend face to face education?

With these questions in hand, I approached Hospice Palliative Care Ontario and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, to discuss the development of an online palliative care education program designed specifically for PSWs.  I am deeply grateful that leaders in both organizations understood the need. We formed a collaboration, and for the past year have worked together to develop PACE for PSWs, an online program, where PSWs receive a national certificate upon completion of ten courses.

We are so grateful to receive grants from the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, from Health Canada and from St Elizabeth Health Care to develop the program and/or individual courses.

Today, as I write, the final registration glitches are being sorted out. Then, tomorrow, the website will open for PSWs to register.

In the coming weeks, I hope that colleagues will consider ways to treat the PSWs in their organization to this online learning, I hope that employers will step forward and register their PSWs as a way to give thanks for all their contributions and sacrifices made during COVID. I hope that the public will hear about PACE and will consider sponsoring a PSW to take the course, as a way to say, “Thank you”.

Yes, I am excited about PACE for PSWs to open.

And, I am honoured to have been a part of making this happen.

So, when someone asks, if I am excited about the launch of PACE for PSWs, I say, “Yes, it is a dream come true”.

To learn more and register head to www.PACEforPSWs.ca

Fatigue, Burnout, Resilience – Why am I feeling this way?

Listen to the recording of this session presented by Michelle O’Rourke

By Michelle O’Rourke

Living and working through the pandemic has affected us deeply, and often we can’t quite put our finger on why we are not feeling like we used to.  For the most part, this ‘heaviness’ we feel at times is an accumulation of stressors and challenges, with a myriad of causes, including:

  • Grief and loss – the loss of life as we knew it, and the losses of those we loved and cared for
  • Worry/anxiety – with many unknowns including if/when we will return to ‘normal’
  • Frustration/anger – loss of control over how we move, work and live our lives
  • Continuous change – new rules, lockdowns, decisions – made by others
  • Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion – with no downtime to recover and no reserve
  • Challenges of providing care during the pandemic – using PPE; fewer resources and the effects of visitor restrictions to name a few

Increasing our capacity for resilience can help us to cope as well as ‘bounce back’ from life’s challenges, supporting our health and wellbeing. Resilience can be strengthened with attention to self-care, an increased self-awareness, and decreasing some of our chronic stressors.  

I often hear people say that “I don’t have time to take care of myself, because I am too busy taking care of everyone else”.  If that is the case, it won’t be long before fatigue and burnout become an issue for you.  Self-care is not something we add on to our already full ‘to-do’ list.  It is an intentional way of living, where our values, attitudes and actions are integrated into our daily routines.  What is it that nourishes and refreshes you?  You are the only one who knows that – and you must be convinced that taking care of yourself is worthwhile and essential, because only you can do it for yourself! Paying attention to your whole self – body, mind and spirit – is part of this.  It doesn’t take ‘extra’ work, just an attention to how you are treating yourself, and doing what you need to stay healthy without feeling guilty. Some ideas include:

Body – am I eating healthy, going for a walk now and then, taking breaks and getting enough rest? 

Mind – looking at what is on my plate – since I probably always add more to it without taking anything off!  Don’t be afraid to prioritize, delegate and simplify responsibilities.  Find some quiet time everyday, and learn the words ‘no’ and ‘enough’. Engage in hobbies and activities you enjoy.

Spirit – enjoy nature and the arts; identify what refreshes you and build it in to your schedule; spend time with loved ones; find inspirational things to reflect on; practice gratitude; tend to your own spiritual needs and cultivate an inner life.  Basically, find out what feeds your heart and your soul and seek that out! 

Increasing self-awareness involves reflecting on the day; checking in with how you are doing inside and out, and exercising self-compassion.  We are often hard on ourselves, and it is important to keep our expectations realistic for the time we are living in.  Mindfulness is also key – trying to take a deep breath now and then to focus on the moment – not obsessing with how things used to be or what the future holds.  One day, one decision at a time. 

There is only one you!  You are no good to yourself, your loved ones or your clients if you crash and burn.  Make the commitment today, to take care of yourselves as you take care of others! 

A reflection by Maureen Russell

Today I met with a wonderful group of Health Care Assistant students from Capilano University. In preparation for the time together they sent me a list of questions, and I in turn considered the questions and what I might share. I shared with them a reflection written by Maureen Russell, a psychosocial care provider who lives and works in southern Ontario.
This reflection was inspired by a man whose experience with a Personal Support Worker helped him to trust, to open up, and prepared him to eventually be able to meet with Maureen in the last weeks of his life. Maureen was adamant, that without the work of the PSW the man never would have been able to open up with her and address some of the deeper issues that he carried.


You entered, and my heart sank. Today would be the first day I would allow a stranger to bathe my broken body. 

How could I have come to this…this moment of unwanted dependency? 

I cringe with despair. A tear dares to sneak its way from beneath the mask of courage I so sheepishly hide behind. 

Who are you, Stranger? Who are you they send to enter my intimate space? 

Do you know ME? Do you know who I am? 

How do I let go into your hands, that which has only been felt by the gentleness of my mother’s touch oh so long ago? 

I shudder as you draw near. My decrepit body tenses and my stomach churns. I close my eyes and turn away, anticipating your cold and callous touch. 

I wait…I wait… 

Till broken is the air by your slow and soft voice…“This must be difficult for you. How can we best do this together?” 

How     can       we       best     do        this            together?  you asked…. 

Breath releases, body relaxes and my facade of courage slips.  Tears flow. I let go. And the waltz begins… 

In the weeks and months to come, we danced every day as you cleaned and cared for my declining body with the utmost respect and compassion. 

Within this place of “the intimate” that I so desperately feared had morphed a space of trust. I felt safe to wonder aloud with you…“How will I die?” “Have I mattered?” “How will I be remembered?” “What is the purpose of it all?”  

You quietly listened without judgement or a need to fix…For that, I thank you.  

And then, you offered me another partner, a counsellor, who could take these new steps and dance the dance of purpose and meaning with me. And because of you, I could accept her help.

I could let go of my masks and facades and bare my true self on my last waltz. 

Little did I know when you entered that being undressed would allow me to be naked.  

Deep gratitude to YOU who cared for my body and gave space for my spirit.   

Contributed by Maureen Russell 

Thank you Maureen for sharing this wonderful reflection with us!